Race has played an increasingly large role in the case involving the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black 17-year-old boy who was killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer last month in Sanford, Florida. The teenager, who was visiting the community with his father, had been on his way back to a family friend’s home after a quick trip to a convenience store; the man who shot him, 28-year-old George Zimmerman, called police and described Trayvon as “real suspicious” before apparently pursuing him.
Many believe the incident to have been triggered by racial profiling, especially after the release of a 911 tape earlier this month. Zimmerman, who claimed self-defense, has yet to be arrested. But the racial discussion has grown broader in the last week, after Zimmerman’s father identified his son as Latino to a Florida newspaper.
Zimmerman had previously been identified as “white.” While the revelation doesn’t change anything in terms of the case, now being investigated by the federal government, it has prompted some interesting reactions and triggered bigger questions about how we assign and perceive race, how prejudice and profiling works, and whether the color or ethnicity of a profiler matters.
Tampa Bay Times media critic Eric Deggans, a former media ethics fellow with the Poynter Institute, has been addressing some of these questions in his column, “The Feed.” In this Q&A, he shares some of the nuances that are being overlooked as the Martin case unfolds.
M-A: How has the role of race in this case evolved since the beginning?
Deggans: I don’t think the role of race has evolved very much. The controversy over this case was that a young black male who had no record and seemed to be just an average kid got shot to death by a guy who is not black. At first, people thought he was white. And then his father put out a statement explaining that he is part Hispanic, and we did a story later where we checked and found that his driver’s license and his photo registration, he registers as Hispanic.
But I don’t think that had the effect that his father wanted of removing the idea that this might have been about race, particulary (sic) since the 911 call came out…He’d said he didn’t really really know the race of the kid when he started following him and confronted him. Then the 911 tapes came out, and it was obvious that he knew he was black.
I think it’s been obvious that the kid had been racially profiled. The racial identity (of the shooter) may change, but I think there is a sense that here was a guy who was not black, who was friendly with the police, and who was allowed to kill an unarmed teenager.
M-A: There have been some interesting reactions to Zimmerman not quite fitting the description of what many people think of as “white,” including from some non-Latino whites who had felt scapegoated. Can you explain this?
Deggans: Among some serious conservatives, there is this feeling that a lot of the racial complaints that black people or people of color have are illegitimate. I think when something like this happens, people on that side of the spectrum want to explain that it is not about race.
For them, seeing that the shooter was part Hispanic takes away that part about a white guy racially profiling a black guy. But anybody can racially profile anybody. Black cops have been accused of racially profiling black people.
Some of this happens when you have people who are not that used to thinking about racial issues or deconstructing racial issues when talking about race. They make it about the most obvious things – that the guy was Hispanic and that the guy was black, and the dynamic must be different. But not really.
These conversations are difficult, because there is a lot of intensity and emotion involved here. I often find myself having to explain relatively simple things to people in the comments section because they don’t really want to have an honest conversation, they want to delegitimize the claim of racism as much as possible. Also too, we just don’t have a great vocabulary. Everyone uses the word “racism” right away. But people can act in prejudice without being bigots.
For more on the story, visit KPCC’s Multi-American.
Read the rest
The gist of a report released yesterday regarding how authorities handled the case of Mitrice Richardson, a young woman found dead almost two years ago in a Malibu canyon, dealt with poor communication between agencies after her body was found, not with how her disappearance was handled or the decisions that led up to it.
But because it’s part of a larger puzzle, her case is worth bringing up again for other reasons. Richardson, who was black, was 24 years old when she was released from the Malibu-Lost Hills station of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after midnight without her purse or a cell phone. Her car had been towed after Richardson, a former beauty queen and college graduate who struggled with mental illness, was arrested for not paying her bill at a Malibu restaurant.
In the criticism since lobbed at the Sheriff’s Department, the role of race in how her case was handled has been more than implied. Richardson’s parents filed suit for wrongful death, charging that authorities should never have released her how they did, in the middle of the night in unfamiliar surroundings with no transportation or way of contacting anyone for help.
As for media coverage, Richardson’s case eventually made major headlines, but not initially, when the search for her began. It may not have made a difference. But there is a stark gap in coverage of missing persons, children and adults, that is tied to race and ethnicity.
For more on the story, visit KPCC’s Multi-American.
Read the rest
If you missed the premiere of Bravo’s “Shahs of Sunset” last night, you’re not alone. I did, as did another colleague who was planning to watch. Perhaps ethnic reality TV has become less of a must-see. Not that most of these shows have been must-sees in the first place, though some have tried harder than others.
That said, there are some interesting conversations in the first episode, which Bravo has online, if one can sift through the rest of it. In this one above, one of the cast members, Asa Soltan Rahmati, chats with a girlfriend about the emotional and identity differences between Iranian Americans who arrived before the 1979 revolution and those who arrived afterward, or were born in the United States. It’s a good conversation that reflects similar differences within other immigrant diasporas, especially those whose migration revolved around political upheaval.
Not that the show, which follows a group of wealthy, flashy friends (case in point, Asa’s reference to a caged tiger at a pool party), has impressed too many Iranian Americans with its “reality.” Even if, as one Iranian politics expert told the Christian Science Monitor, “it’s showing a face of Iranians that’s not related to terrorism or nuclear weapons.” From that story:
Some Iranian-Americans are advocating a boycott of “Shahs” as they think showcasing the lives of Iranian-American socialites who flaunt their status as part of the country’s moneyed “one per cent,” will merely worsen public views of the Iranian-American community, especially as the rest of the United States is still painstakingly climbing out of an economic recession.
For more, visit KPCC’s Multi-American.
Read the rest
How much is poor communication between the agencies that handle immigration and border security a factor in costly mistakes that affect immigrants in the system? A lengthy report based on an investigation by Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General doesn’t directly answer that question, but it does make a good case that improvements are needed.
More than a decade after the 9/11 attacks prompted a massive reorganization of the agencies that oversee the immigration system, inter-agency communication remains far from optimal at various steps along the way, from the agencies that monitor immigrants’ arrival to those that enforce their exit.
The report is especially relevant given some recent erroneous deportations that have received attention, most recently that of a young Honduran-born man from Los Angeles who had been pursuing a “reasonable fear” asylum claim in hopes of avoiding deportation, fearing his gang affiliation might get him killed if he was sent back. Twenty-year-old Nelson Avila-Lopez’s deportation was suspended last fall, but soon afterward, he was sent to Honduras by mistake.
Upon his return, he was placed in a prison that burned down in February, killing him and more than 350 others. Afterward, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials attributed the deadly mistake to “probably the product of a breakdown in communications between the agency and the local immigration court.”
According to the Homeland Security OIG report, the completion and tracking of asylum cases and how the results are communicated to other agencies is just one of many things that needs improvement within the immigration system.
For more on the report, visit KPCC’s Multi-American.
Read the rest
Leslie Berenstein Rojas on Monday, Mar. 5th
One post earlier this week mapped the top 10 states with the biggest foreign-born population growth since 1990; another post took a look at the states that since 2010 have enacted anti-illegal immigration laws. Among these are five states that since then have enacted strict laws similar to Arizona’s SB 1070, which the U.S. Supreme Court is set to weigh in on next month.
Put the data in both together and you have this: A list of the states with the fastest-growing immigrant populations that have recently enacted Arizona-style immigration laws. And as it turns out, of the five states with new laws similar to SB 1070 since 2010 – Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Utah and Indiana – all but one are on the top 10 list.
Here are the four states, all of which have seen more than 280 percent growth in their foreign-born populations since 1990, according to the Migration Policy Institute map above, and a brief synopsis of what’s happening with their immigration laws, all of which face legal challenges:
Alabama: Considered the nation’s strictest state anti-illegal immigration law, the measure known as HB 56 took partial effect in September. Among its many provisions was one blocked in court that would have required public schools to check the immigration status of students. The measure has driven many Latino immigrants to leave the state, prompting a labor shortage. A panel of federal judges in Atlanta this week decided to hold off on ruling on legal challenges to this and a similar law in Georgia until the Supreme Court decides on SB 1070.
Georgia: The state approved a measure last spring that is similar to the Alabama law, if not quite as strict. But with a component that requires employers to verify work authorization, similar to what has happened in Alabama, Georgia’s agricultural industry has been affected by a reduction in its labor force after the law took effect. Attempts to bring in convicts to work the fields have not worked out as planned. As with the Alabama law, federal judges are to decide on the law’s fate after SB 1070 is decided on by the Supreme Court.
South Carolina: Approved by state legislators in June, the state’s SB 1070-inspired law would have required law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of people suspected to be in the country illegally, a provision common to the laws modeled after Arizona’s. This and other controversial provisions were blocked (as was the same provision in Arizona) by a federal judge last December, before the law took effect in January.
Read the rest of the entry at Multi-American blog.
Read the rest
Leslie Berenstein Rojas on Thursday, Mar. 1st
Immigration is one of the factors driving the growth in the number of U.S. mosques, according to a new report that tracks a 74 percent jump in the number of mosques over the last decade. So are different patterns of settlement, as the suburbs draw more Muslim families away from urban centers.
Titled “The American Mosque 2011,” the report is part of a University of Kentucky-led study. It cites several reasons for why the number of Islamic houses of worship in the country has gone from 1,209 mosques in 2000 to 2,106 last year. A few of these factors, from the report:
Read the rest of the entry on Multi-American.
Read the rest
Leslie Berenstein Rojas on Wednesday, Feb. 15th
A Homeland Security budget proposal released yesterday recommends what seems to be a gradual phase-out of a program known as 287(g), a voluntary federal-local immigration enforcement partnership that preceded the more controversial, but less costly (and mandatory) Secure Communities fingerprint-sharing program. The proposed budget recommends cutting $17 million from 287(g), discontinuing it in some jurisdictions, and suspending consideration of new requests from agencies wishing to participate.
What is 287(g)? The federal program derives its odd name from a 1996 amendment to the immigration law that authorized it. From the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website:
The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 added Section 287(g), performance of immigration officer functions by state officers and employees, to the Immigration and Nationality Act. This authorizes the secretary of DHS to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies, permitting designated officers to perform immigration law enforcement functions, provided that the local law enforcement officers receive appropriate training and function under the supervision of ICE officers.
How it works: Agencies that participate in 287(g) have received federally-funded training from ICE, with officers participating in a four-week training program. ICE in turn authorizes the agencies to identify and detain deportable immigrants encountered by officers in “the course of daily duties,” according to an ICE fact sheet. Each agency enters into a contract with ICE, known as a memorandum of agreement, defining the scope of each particular partnership.
Agencies are able to request training specific to any area of immigration law enforcement, but as used in Los Angeles County (along with Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties), most agencies use it to identify deportable immigrants who land in local jails and state prisons. In jails, the screening is generally done post-conviction, versus on the receiving end, as occurs with Secure Communities.
Read the rest at Multi-American.
Read the rest
Leslie Berenstein Rojas on Monday, Feb. 13th
As violence between Syrian government forces and anti-government rebels spreads, it’s having emotional repercussions in Southern California, where Syrian immigrant families have been trying their best to follow the events remotely. Many are relying on social media for the latest updates. Last week, KPCC’s Yasmin Nouh caught up with several who shared their thoughts, most requesting their last names not be published for fear of loved ones’ safety in Syria. Her guest post:
Any video posted on Facebook or tweeted from Syria these days is most likely set against a backdrop of heavy shelling and pummeling from machine guns as the eleven-month-old uprising in Syria intensifies. Facebook has become a common news source for many Syrian Americans, who follow pages like The Syrian Day of Rage, Syria Breaking News and The Syrian Revolution.
But as the violence between opposition activists and those loyal to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad grows deadlier, some Syrian Americans’ hopes are dwindling. Some have already lost family members. There are some who want to see the international community provide aid, while others want for it it to recognize the Syrian National Council, the opposition coalition, as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people. Here are their thoughts, in their own words.
Reem is a civil rights attorney who lives in Los Feliz. The majority of her extended family lives in Damascus, the Syrian capital. She keeps in touch with her relatives via phone.
“To be honest, it’s really hard for me to follow the stuff because it’s so personal. There is this sense of hopelessness. It’s just so atrocious and cruel. This is totally not me, but sometimes I kind of check out because it’s hard for me to hear about it and read about it and listen to it.”
Noor, a law student at Chapman University in Orange, has already received the traumatic news that is becoming increasingly common, intensified by what’s being posted online. Some of her relatives live in Damascus, others around the city’s outskirts.
“I have had three family members killed in one day. In their case – when a neighbor was shot and killed outside my uncle’s grocery store, my uncle heroically stepped outside to save his neighbor’s body and bring it inside. At this point, regime thugs charged into his store and shot my uncle, his son, and another friend in the head. I saw their pictures post mortem online.
“It’s something else to see their injuries and bodies; it’s absolutely horrifying. But then multiply this feeling over and over and that is how I feel everyday when I see images of dead and injured children, mothers wailing over the bodies of their babies, husbands and wives screaming in agony as they say goodbye to their beloved, and children on the ground crying next to their dead daddy. I can’t get these images out of my mind. This is happening every day.”
Read the rest of the post at Multi-American.
Read the rest
Leslie Berenstein Rojas on Monday, Feb. 6th
Just what is an upscale Latino? Take a drive through some of the manicured suburban neighborhoods of Downey, Whittier, West Covina or parts of Glendale to get an idea.
Or you can read a new report put together by Packaged Facts titled “Upscale Latino Consumers in the U.S.,” which outlines the financial clout of “the 8.2 million Latino adults living in households with an income of $75,000 or more.” From a summary:
Between 2000 and 2010 the number of Upscale Latino households more than doubled from 1.3 million to 2.9 million, and grew three times faster than the number of non-Latino Upscale Consumer households. Upscale Latino households account for only 21% of all Latino households but now generate 51% of their aggregate income.
With buying power that is expected to reach $680 billion in 2016, Upscale Latinos have an outsize impact on marketing and sales success in the Latino market. Internet marketers and retailers, among others, should place a high priority on reaching out to these shoppers, who account for two-thirds of all Latinos who annually spend $1,000 or more online.
The complete report costs money to download, but since this demographic is of interest not only to marketers but academics, there’s been a fair amount of research on wealthier Latinos lately.
While Latinos and other minorities were disproportionately slammed by the economic downturn, there’s more wealth lurking in middle-class Latino pockets than some might expect. University of Southern California researchers Jody Vallejo and Dowell Myers are some of those who have studied this region’s Latino middle class and its continuing evolution.
Read more about what Vallejo and Myers found at KPCC’s Multi-American.
Read the rest
Leslie Berenstein-Rojas on Wednesday, Jan. 25th
On yesterday’s Patt Morrison show on KPCC, cartoonist and funny man Lalo Alcaraz revealed – sort of – that’s he’s “a hundred percent” behind the Mitt Romney twitter parody, @Mexican Mitt.
That meaning a hundred percent behind “Mexican Mitt” as a supporter, of course.
“I think we had a misunderstanding, Patt,” Alcaraz joked. “When I said I was the man behind Mexican Mitt, I meant I am behind him a hundred percent, as (are) all Latinos.”
Alcaraz, who recently relaunched the Pocho.com political satire site, was cagey about @Mexican Mitt when I asked him about it recently, too. But on air, his “Ajuua!!” does sound suspiciously like that of the charro suit-clad Romney parody, who has more than 3,000 followers.
For those not familiar with @MexicanMitt, the humor revolves around Republican presidential candidate Romney’s family roots in Mexico, something he’s only recently begun talking about on the campaign trail. He’s the descendant of Mormons who moved to Mexico from the U.S. in the late 1800s to avoid anti-polygamy laws. His grandfather and father were born in the northern state of Chihuahua. His father came to the U.S. with his parents at age five.
Read the rest of the entry and more at Multi-American’s blog from Southern California Public Radio.
Read the rest